Buckley Chats Bafana’s Victory Over Nigeria

It was Stuart Baxter’s second return as head coach of the South African national team and he has done really well to turn around Bafana’s fortunes. Its Bafana’s first win against the Super Eagles in 24 years (in an official game) and beating them away was even more special.  Considering that Baxter did not have a lot of time to prepare with the team makes this even more admirable.

There were many positives to take out from the game but let me start with where I think there is room for improvement. The first 20mins of the game it looked as if Bafana was feeling out the opposition, which meant they were doing a lot of ball watching, and were not aggressive enough on competing for and winning the ball. They were not picking up 1-on-1 and gave the Nigerians time and space to play and dominate. At this level, you cannot afford to do this and Baxter needs to ensure they are on their game right from the start. In the early stages, Bafana’s build up play was a tad bit slow for my liking and there were not many attacking options created. The movement from the midfield and strikers was a bit static and there were not many wanting the ball, which caused many unnecessary mistakes as we lost the ball too easily. This meant that they were on the back foot and had to defend for the beginning stages. Without many options playing from the back our defenders started to play long balls onto the strikers to run onto which did not work in Bafana’s favour.

Bafana battled to contain the speed of the Nigerian attack, and this left them exposed when Etebo almost scored from close range. This was also because they were not as compact as a unit when defending. The distances from the defenders and midfields were too big and this enabled Nigeria to exploit this space to receive and play in between them. Bafana finally started to pick up their game and started to show some sparks as Dolly, Rantie, and Vilakazi connected well on attack. Just before half time, Themba Zwane almost scored when his shot hit the post, after Nigeria’s keeper – Daniel Akpeyi failed to hold on to a Tebogo Langerman cross from the left wing.

Second Half

Credit again to Coach Baxter, as he interpreted the first half well to change the style and concept of play for the second. Bafana came out more disciplined, compact between the lines, and defended more aggressively on winning the ball and playing quick counter attacking football. We saw this as Rantie scored in the 54th minute from a splendid Ramahlwe Mphahlele cross. This was a typical move out of Baxter’s playbook as he is a big advocate for wide play.  This goal picked Bafana’s confidence up and frustrated the Super Eagles to attempting more long-range shots at goal.

There were some nervous moments when Ahmed Musa, the Leicester City striker came on to replace Chuka Iwobi. His pace also caused headaches for Bafana’s defence with Nigeria almost getting the equaliser, but Dean Furman came to the rescue and cleared off the line.  In another brilliant move with 10mins to go, Baxter brought on Tau who repaid Baxter bringing him on when he capitalised on Dolly’s sublime through pass to round the keeper and send South Africa 2-0 up.

Hats off the Baxter for motivating the team to win away in Nigeria. His faith in Rantie alongside Sibusiso Vilakazi upfront, with Eric Matzoh chosen to partner Thalami Hlatshwayo at the back all paid off. Credit as well to the ever-reliable Khune for keeping a clean sheet.

This was a great result for Bafana against a Super Eagles team coached by German, Gernot Rohr who played a strong team, which included Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho.

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